Monday, December 15, 2014

MOOCs are Finding their Space

Only two or three years ago, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) were being touted as the vehicle that would revolutionize higher education. So far, they aren't doing that and you don't hear it as much any more.

But yet, MOOCs are still being offered on a "massive" scale, with institutions like Harvard, MIT Stamford and Georgia Tech offering them and in the case of Georgia, offering an entire masters program with MOOCs. The interesting thing is MOOCs are finding their niche. And that niche is not in replacing the traditional face-to-face educational model.

In some cases, they are supplementing the traditional model. For example, they are replacing textbooks in certain courses. They are also being used to help with training teachers, including high school teachers. And they are being used for industrial training, with one major provider focusing solely on that area.

Much has been made by the detractors that 90% of MOOC students do not finish the courses. But that's an overrated statistic. To flip it around, 10% of them do, 10% of 3000 students amounts to a sizeable course. Some of the students who register never start, because there is no financial barrier. For the rest, there is a variety of reasons why students don't finish, many of which do not mean they didn't have a meaningful and potentially useful experience. Maybe they studied just the material that interested them. Maybe they didn't want to work through assignments and exams. Maybe they didn't need or want a certificate and just wanted the learning experience. Learning for the sake of learning is not a bad thing. The students who did finish are the ones who really wanted to learn. Those who attended the lectures are the ones who really wanted to be there. That's not a bad thing either.

For a great article on MOOCs, click here.


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